'Unbroken Brain' Offers New Insights On Addiction

A new book presents insights into addiction.

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From the start of Maia Szalavitz’s englightening, insightful and informative new book on addiction titled Unbroken Brain, I had the feeling that I was being reminded of truths that I’d once known but that I and others, as if through a kind of collective amnesia, had somehow forgotten.

Thinking about addiction tends to cluster around two extremes.

On the one hand, there’s moralism. Addicts, so the moralist say, are people who won’t say no. They consume beyond restraint and recklessly indulge their pleasures. This is a bad way to live. Addicts are bad.

The moralist gets something right, I believe. The moralist is right, for example, that the addict’s life is seriously and even morally messed up. Addicts are closed and shut down. This is bad. This is a bad and painful and sad way to be.

But the moralist is wrong to think this is somehow a moral failing of the addict. Addicts are not bad.

The moralist is right about something else, too, and this deserves emphasis. Addicts are not aliens. They struggle to balance the pleasures and rewards of consumption against the costs of excessive indulgence. This is a struggle that every person faces.

On the other hand, there is the medical view: Addiction is a disease, specifically, a disease of the brain. Like the moralistic stance, this view gets something right. It gets right precisely the fact that, in contrast with what the moralist says, addicts are not like the rest us with the single difference that they won’t say no to pleasure. Addicts can’t say no, and pleasure in the end has little to do with it. An addicts life can be full of anxiety, suffering, painful longing and, above all, compulsion. There is something wrong with the addict. The idea that addiction is a disease does a better job capturing the abnormality and negative character of the addict’s condition. Moreover, as is widely known, there are fairly well-understood biochemical processes underlying addiction; addiction has roots in neurophysiology.

But the disease model, no less than its moralistic counterpart, goes overboard, according to Szalavitz’s book. Addiction may be tied to the brain, but it is hardly a disease of the brain the way Alzheimer’s is. And if it is a sickness, it isn’t a sickness the way cancer is. Addiction isn’t tied to a body part or a physical system in that way. If we insist on calling is a disease, then we should say that it is a disease of the whole person or something like a sickness in the way we live. It is tied up, of its very nature, with action and the will, with feelings, and with relationships.

There are so many myths about addiction, the book reminds us. For example, there is the idea that once an addict, always an addict. And then there is the idea that mere exposure to a drug or behavior causes addiction.

The facts are: The substantial majority of people who try drugs or potentially addictive activities (such as gambling) do not become addicts. And the bulk of those that do will eventually give up their addictions.

Addiction, Szalavitz notices, is, predominantly, a problem of youth. Most addicts get started when they’re still kids. And, remarkably, most addicts give up their addiction by the time they reach their 30s. In effect, they age out of their addiction.

Armed with these facts, Szalavitz makes a novel and even beautiful proposal. Addiction, she hypotheses, is a developmental disorder. Specifically, it is a learning disorder, by which she means, in the first instance, that people, kids mostly, learn to be addicts, that is, they develop the habits of pleasure, action, reaction, etc., that is what their being addicted consists in.

And, of course, they don’t do so in a vacuum. Which brings us to the final piece of the puzzle. The vast majority of addicts have suffered great trauma early on in life. Sexual abuse or other forms of violence, the loss of a parent, divorce, are not uncommon antecedents of addiction. The cliché that addiction begins as a form of self-medication is probably right. The future addict learns to use the drug as part of an economy of feeling and action. It’s not the drug, or the behavior, that is the source of the addiction. The substance is a tool or a technique for an ultimately inadequate self-mastery and control.

Szalavitz’s view helps us integrate the insights of the two extremist views I mentioned at the outset. Addiction, as the medicalist would have it, is a disease, not like Alzheimer’s or cancer, but like ADHD. It is a learning disorder, that is, one that occurs along a spectrum. And, so, her view also lets us see how the moralist is right, that we “normal ones” ourselves occupy a place on that very same spectrum. And, moreover, the moralist is right that the addict’s disorder is a morally significant one. Not because addicts will cheat and lie to get what they need. But because the addict is in the grip of a kind of false consciousness. They think the next fix matters, when it doesn’t matter, not at all.

I have only touched on a very small part of what Maia Szalavitz discusses in Unbroken Brain. She explores problems with the criminalization of drugs, the place of racism in our culture’s treatment of drugs and addiction, and she looks closely and illuminatingly at different treatment methods. There’s a lot of news you can use in this book if you or someone you love is an addict.

If I understand Szlalavitz correctly, addiction is a learning disorder in a second sense as well. It is not only the case that we learn to be addicts, according to Szlalavitz. It is also the case that learning is the key to overcoming addiction.

There is no one size fits all answer to the question of what it is that the addict needs to learn. Szalavitz argues that only a compassionate and ideology-free attitude to the addict can help us understand what it is that he or she needs to learn to be more at peace.


Alva Noë is a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, where he writes and teaches about perception, consciousness and art. He is the author of several books, including his latest, Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2015). You can keep up with more of what Alva is thinking on Facebook and on Twitter: @alvanoe

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Sanders Campaign Has Spent 50 Percent More Than Clinton in 2016

Campaign gear for sale before a campaign rally for Bernie Sanders in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in February.

Campaign gear for sale before a campaign rally for Bernie Sanders in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in February. J Pat Carter/Getty Images hide caption

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With Bernie Sanders lopping hundreds of staffers from his campaign this week, it’s easy to forget he has outraised and outspent Hillary Clinton every month this year. And not by just a little.

Sanders described his campaign as the “underdog” early on, but it certainly hasn’t been the case the past three months. Federal Election Commission reports for January, February and March of 2016 show Sanders outspending Clinton by more than 50 percent, $121.6 million to $80.2 million.

We know where those additional Bernie dollars came from: legions of small donors. The Campaign Finance Institute calculated that in February, the Sanders campaign raised 56 percent of his money from donors contributing $200 or less and 12 percent from donors giving 1,000 or more. Corresponding numbers for Clinton are 21 and 64 percent.

So how did Sanders spend all those Bernie dollars? NPR decided to focus on the month of March, which had the latest data available and was the most intense month of the primary season, with balloting in 28 states. Here’s what we found:

  • Money raised
    – Sanders: $45.96 million
    – Clinton: $26.83 million
  • Money spent
    – Sanders: $45.71 million
    – Clinton: $28.96 million
  • Number of donors
    – Sanders: 2.2 million
    – Clinton: 1.1 million
  • Spending per vote
    – Sanders: $7.62
    – Clinton: $3.29
  • Spending per day
    – Sanders: $1.47 million
    – Clinton: $925,584
  • Monthly payroll
    – Sanders: $4.86 million
    – Clinton: $2.71 million
  • Paid staffers
    – Sanders: 896
    – Clinton: 780
  • TV ads (from Center for Public Integrity)
    – Sanders: 34,267
    – Clinton: 26,069

The massive spending advantage wasn’t enough for Sanders. In March he won 912 delegates to Clinton’s 1,141. Now, just two big primaries remain – California and New Jersey – along with nine smaller ones and Sanders’ path to Democratic nomination is all but non-existent.

Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs, announcing the layoffs, issued a statement that the campaign “will continue to have a strong and dedicated staff of more than 300 workers who are going to help us win in California and other contests still to come.” He said the campaign “believes that we have a path toward victory.”

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said, in an email to NPR, that they’ve always tried to “make smart, targeted investments and be efficient with our spending.” He said, “The most important factor in this race isn’t money,” it’s how voters respond to Clinton’s policies and plans.

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U.S. Service Members Disciplined In Mistaken Bombing Of Afghan Hospital

Sixteen U.S. service members have been disciplined after the Pentagon reviewed the U.S. airstrikes that killed 42 people at a civilian hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last fall.

NPR’s Tom Bowman reports that none of the military personnel face criminal charges.

“The report cites a number of mistakes — human and technical — that led to what the U.S. says was an unintentional attack on a hospital run by the group Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan,” Tom says, adding that the “top American officer in charge of the region, General Joe Votel, will discuss the findings at the Pentagon on Friday.”

As NPR reported, the Oct. 3, 2015 attack killed 42 people, including employees with Medecins Sans Frontieres (also known as Doctors Without Borders) and patients. The organization called the strikes a “war crime” and is demanding an international investigation.

U.S. officials have said a mistake with coordinates led the crew of the AC-130 gunship to hit the wrong target. As NPR’s Philip Reeves reported, the U.S. gave victims of the attack $3,000 in what was called “condolence money.”

Zabihullah Niazi, a worker at the hospital who lost an eye and an arm in the bombing, was the recipient of one of these payments — and he called it “insulting.” Philip explained:

“Niazi, 25, was a nurse at a Kunduz trauma center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). In late September, the Taliban invaded the city. It took several days for the Afghan army, supported by U.S. air power and special forces, to drive them out.

“During that battle, in the early hours of Oct. 3, Niazi was inside the hospital, resting after a shift, when one U.S. missile after another pummeled the building — incinerating some patients in their beds.

“The Pentagon later described this prolonged aerial assault as a ‘tragic, avoidable accident,’ caused by human error, faulty computers and a communications breakdown.”

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Carlos Henriquez: The Bronx Pyramid

April 28, 20166:48 PM ET

Carlos Henriquez spends a lot of time these days in midtown Manhattan as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s bassist — a post he’s held since he was a teen. But his roots are uptown in the Bronx. In The Bronx Pyramid, his debut album released last year by JALC’s Blue Engine Records, Henriquez acknowledges the neighborhood where he was born and raised. In songs like “Joshua’s Dream” and “Brook Ave,” the young Nuyorican composer brings together Afro-Latin traditions and his jazz pedigree to pay tribute to the family and community that raised him.

Jazz Night In America takes in a performance led by Carlos Henriquez at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, inside Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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Syria Hospital Bombing: Are The Rules Of War Blowing Up?

The al-Quds Hospital in Aleppo is one of seven health facilities that have been bombed in Syria in 2016.

The al-Quds Hospital in Aleppo is one of seven health facilities that have been bombed in Syria in 2016. Beha el Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Beha el Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The al-Quds hospital in Aleppo, Syria, is the latest health care facility to get blown apart.

The 34 bed al-Quds hospital was tucked into the lower floors of a 5-story building in the Sukkari neighborhood of Aleppo. Sand bags blocked the windows and fortified the entrance. Cement apartment buildings pressed on either side of it. Late Wednesday night witnesses say a low-flying fighter jet unleashed a missile that smashed directly into the hospital.

The airstrike killed at least 27 people, including Dr. Mohammed Wassim Moaz, a pediatrician who continued to work in Aleppo even as the Syrian civil war raged around him.

The hospital’s location is well-known in Aleppo. And that’s why some observers are charging that the bombing is part of a recent and disturbing trend.

“Over the last several years direct, targeted attacks on health-care institutions that are clearly civilian facilities have escalated greatly,” says Dr. Michael Van Rooyen an emergency physician and the director of Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, “and Syria’s been the most notable and notorious example.”

Van Rooyen has just come out with a book called The World’s Emergency Room: The Growing Threat to Doctors, Nurses, and Humanitarian Workers.

He says it’s a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions to launch airstrikes on medical facilities. These attacks have made providing medical care in conflict zones incredibly dangerous, especially in Syria, he adds.

“Increasingly [clinics] are forced literally underground,” he says. “The only way these surgeons can work is in basements of hospitals, not normal facilities, bunkers practically, which is really restrictive and really difficult.”

Sam Taylor, spokesman for Doctors Without Borders in Amman, Jordan, says al-Quds was a well-established hospital with an emergency room and an 8 bed pediatric ward.

“What this [attack] means in very practical terms is that one of the main facilities for women to give birth and children to receive treatment has now been destroyed,” he says.

MSF, as the group is also known, runs 6 medical facilities inside the country and helps support 150 others with supplies and salaries for [local] staff. Al-Quds was one of them. Taylor says of the clinics and hospitals his charity is working with in Syria, seven have been bombed since January. “This year alone in 2016,” he stress, “Seven structures have been hit.”

And it’s not just in Syria that field hospitals and medical aid workers are being attacked.

Over the last six months, four MSF facilities in Yemen were hit by airstrikes.

In October of last year an American gunship mistook an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, for a Taliban compounded and pounded it for nearly half an hour. The bombing killed 42 people.

The year before medical facilities were attacked in war zones around the world including in the Ukraine, Colombia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Iraq, to name a few.

Van Rooyen says 20 years ago humanitarian groups were viewed as impartial and enjoyed a certain level of protection in most of the places they worked. He says that’s no longer the case — a dangerous shift not only for health care workers but for the local community.

Conditions are so dangerous in some places that health care workers can’t work at all. This, he says, can have even a greater impact than the loss of a single hospital.

“Populations no longer have access to public health,” Van Rooyen says. “They no longer have access to childhood vaccinations, and they can’t get their kids treated for pneumonia and diarrhea. It’s the deprivation of basic health resources that disproportionately kill children and block women from having safe pregnancies. Elders can’t get medications.”

While no one’s taken responsibility for the airstrike, the only two groups with aircraft in the area are the Syrian regime and the Russians.

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Weighing The Good And The Bad Of Autonomous Killer Robots In Battle

The robotic skull of a T-600 cyborg used in the movie Terminator 3.

The robotic skull of a T-600 cyborg used in the movie Terminator 3. Eduardo Parra/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Eduardo Parra/Getty Images

In his lab at George Mason University in Virginia, Sean Luke has all kinds of robots: big ones with wheels, medium ones that look like humans, and then he has a couple of dozen that look like small, metal boxes.

He and his team at the Autonomous Robotics Lab are training those little ones to work together without the help of a human.

In the future, Luke and his team hope those little robots can work like ants — in teams of hundreds, for example, to build houses, or help search for survivors after a disaster.

“These things are changing very rapidly and they’re changing much faster than we sort of expected them to be changing recently,” Luke says.

New algorithms and huge new databases are allowing robots to navigate complex spaces, and artificial intelligence just achieved a victory few thought would ever happen: A computer made by Google beat a professional human in a match of Go.

It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure a future when a swarm of those robots are used on a battlefield. And if that sounds like science fiction, it’s not.

Earlier this month representatives from more than 82 countries gathered in Geneva to consider the repercussions of that kind of development. In the end, they emerged with a recommendation: The key U.N. body that sets norms for weapons of war should put killer robots on its agenda.

A ‘Moral Threshold’

Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic added to the urgency of the meeting by issuing a report calling for a complete ban on autonomous killer robots.

Bonnie Docherty, who teaches at Harvard Law School and was the lead author of the report, says the technology must be stopped before humanity crosses what she calls a “moral threshold.”

“[Lethal autonomous robots] have been called the third revolution of warfare after gunpowder and nuclear weapons,” she says. “They would completely alter the way wars are fought in ways we probably can’t even imagine.”

Docherty says killer robots could start an arms race and also obscure who’s held responsible for war crimes. But above all, she says, there is the issue of basic human rights.

“It would undermine human dignity to be killed by a machine that can’t understand the value of human life,” she says.

Paul Scharre, who runs a program on ethical autonomy at the Center for a New American Security and was also in Geneva for the talks, says that it’s pretty clear that nobody wants “Cylons and Terminators.”

In truth, he says, the issue of killer robots is more complicated in reality than it is in science fiction.

Take, for example, the long-range anti-ship missile Lockheed Martin is developing for the U.S. military. The LRASM can lose contact with its human minders yet still scour the sea with its sensors, pick a target and slam into it.

“It sounds simple to say things like: ‘Machines should not make life-or-death decisions.’ But what does it mean to make a decision?” Scharee asks. “Is my Roomba making a decision when it bounces off the couch and wanders around? Is a land mine making a decision? Does a torpedo make a decision?”

‘Meaningful Human Control’

Scharee helped write U.S. policy on killer robots and he likes where they ended up.

Department of Defense Directive 3000.09 requires a high-ranking Defense official to approve unusual uses of autonomous technology and it also calls for those systems to always keep “appropriate levels of human judgement over the use of force.”

Proponents of a ban say that policy leaves too much wiggle room. They advocate that all military weapons maintain “meaningful human control.”

Georgia Tech’s Ron Arkin, who is one of the country’s leading roboethicists, says hashing that distinction out is important but the potential benefits of killer robots should not be overlooked.

“They can assume far more risk on behalf of a non-combatant than any human being in their right mind would,” he says. “They can potentially have better sensors to cut through the fog of war. They can be designed without emotion — such as anger, fear, frustration — which causes human beings, unfortunately, to err.”

Arkin says robots could become a new kind of precision-guided weapon. They could be sent into an urban environment, for example, to take out snipers. He says that’s probably far into the future, but what he knows right now is that too many innocent people are still being killed in war.

“We need to do something about that,” he says. “And technology affords one way to do that and we should not let science fiction cloud our judgement in terms of moving forward.”

Arkin says one day killer robots could be so precise that it might become inhumane not to use them.

The next meeting in Geneva is set for December, when a U.N. group will decide whether to formally start developing new international law governing killer robots. Since the last meeting, 14 countries have joined in calling for a total ban.

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3 Things To Know About The NFL Draft That Don't Have Much To Do With Football

The 2016 NFL draft kicks off in Chicago on Thursday.

The 2016 NFL draft kicks off in Chicago on Thursday. Getty Images hide caption

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The 2016 NFL draft starts tonight so here’s our comprehensive first-round mock draft.

Just kidding. Mock drafts are in such abundance they practically comprise their own genre at this point. So instead, here are three other things to know about the NFL draft.

1. Moritz Boehringer

This 22-year-old wide receiver from Germany has never played a single game of football in the U.S., but his athleticism, strength and speed have some NFL scouts predicting he could be the first German player ever to make it to the NFL.

He started playing football when he was 17, and most recently played in the highest level of German football, NFL.com reported. At 6’4″ and 227 lbs, he impressed scouts at an NFL pro day in March, tallying scores and times in various drills that ranked him among the top wide receiver prospects from the NFL scouting combine in February, the site said. It added that six teams, including the Patriots, Packers and Broncos, expressed interest in him.

Still, relative inexperience could trump his raw talent. After all, as MMQB.com writes, Boehringer was until recently, “a mechanical engineering student in Aalen, Germany, who drove 50 kilometers each way to practice American football once a week.”

If he is drafted, likely in the later rounds, he will be the first European player to be drafted straight into the league.

“I don’t have any expectations,” Boehringer said, according to ESPN. “I’ll just wait and see what happens. The best advice I’ve gotten is just keep working hard. It’s just my dream to play.”

2. The draft takes forever

Get a sandwich and a beer or two (or five) because the first round of the NFL draft, scheduled for Thursday night at 8 p.m., will take a long time. Each of the 32 NFL teams is allotted 10 minutes to make their first round picks, meaning the process can take more than five hours to complete, though it usually doesn’t take that long. ESPN has blocked out 3.5 hours for the first round. Rounds 2 and 3 are scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. and rounds 4-7 will be held Saturday at noon. Draft protocol stipulates that teams get seven minutes per pick in round 2 and five minutes in rounds 3-6. They have four minutes to make a pick in round 7. If that seems specific and bureaucratic, here’s the six-step process for actually choosing a player, according to NFL rules:

“When a team decides on a selection, it communicates the player’s name from its draft room to its representatives at Selection Square. The team representative then writes the player’s name, position and school on a card and submits it to an NFL staff member known as a runner.

“When the runner gets the card, the selection is official, and the draft clock is reset for the next pick. A second runner goes to the representatives of the team up next and lets them know who was chosen. Upon receiving the card, the first runner immediately radios the selection to a NFL Player Personnel representative, who inputs the player’s name into a database that notifies all clubs of the pick. The runner also walks the card to the head table, where it’s given to Ken Fiore, vice president of player personnel.

“Fiore reviews the name for accuracy and records the pick. He then shares the name with the NFL’s broadcast partners, the commissioner and other league or team representatives so they can announce the pick.”

Something tell us that the first-ever draft in 1936, which featured teams like the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Redskins, was a simpler affair.

3. Scouting reports

Not only are players evaluated on the strength of the “draft stock” and “measurables,” that is, how fast they run, how high they jump, how far they throw and how many passes they catch, future NFL players are increasingly being assessed on subjective factors such as “character.” For example, Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton was infamously maligned as “fake” and “selfish” in a scouting report before he was drafted.

Scouts, perhaps attempting to remain relevant in a sports atmosphere where analytics are holding more and more sway (anyone can compare sets of numbers, after all) have taken to citing sources, many of whom are anonymous, as insights into players’ “readiness” for the NFL. Recently, this took the form of a scout questioning the cooking abilities of Ohio State’s Eli Apple. In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, an unnamed scout was quoted as saying, “I worry about him because of off-the-field issues. The kid has no life skills. At all. Can’t cook. Just a baby. He’s not first round for me. He scares me to death.”

Several news outlets called out out the “lunacy” of this pre-draft assessment, and posited that these types of reports point to a “weakness” in the drafting process.

Then there’s this from Slate:

“There are two great things about this scout’s foray into food criticism. One is that the last NFL season ended with Peyton Manning winning a Super Bowl and retiring. Peyton Manning, in addition to being a guaranteed Hall of Famer and one of the best football players ever, was once publicly described by members of his own family as not being able to open a can of soup.

The article cites a 1999 Sports Illustrated profile that quotes members of Manning’s family explaining that he not only couldn’t open soup, but had his girlfriend order Chinese food for him.

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Why Chobani Gave Employees A Financial Stake In Company's Future

Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya (left) presents an employee with shares of the company on Tuesday at the Chobani plant in New Berlin, in upstate New York.

Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya (left) presents an employee with shares of the company on Tuesday at the Chobani plant in New Berlin, in upstate New York. Johannes Arlt hide caption

toggle caption Johannes Arlt

It’s been a good week for employees of Chobani. They learned that they could eventually own about 10 percent of the rapidly expanding Greek yogurt company. That could potentially make millionaires of some workers, if the privately held company is sold or goes public.

It’s a grand gesture, and reflects a rising trend in employee ownership.

Chobani’s meteoric rise began in a defunct old Kraft yogurt manufacturing plant in upstate New York. Founder Hamdi Ulukaya’s only experience in the dairy business was that his mother made delicious strained yogurt in his hometown in Turkey.

Now, a decade later, the company has reached $1 billion in annual sales. It has two factories, 2,000 employees, and is worth an estimated $3 billion.

Ulukaya — still Chobani’s majority owner — told employees on Tuesday to think of the grants as a pledge to expand the company even more.

“We used to work together; now we are partners,” he told workers at the company’s facility in New Berlin, N.Y.

Ulukaya, who also founded Chobani, personally determined the shares each employee received, based on their role and tenure at the company.

Ulukaya, who also founded Chobani, personally determined the shares each employee received, based on their role and tenure at the company. Johannes Arlt hide caption

toggle caption Johannes Arlt

Ulukaya is outspoken about corporate civic duty. Ten percent of Chobani profits go to charity. One-third of its workforce is made up of refugees. And an employee ownership grant was always part of Ulukaya’s dream plan.

Still, his announcement came as a surprise to almost all employees.

“We built something, now we’re sharing it,” Ulukaya said.

Employee stock ownership is not all that unusual, especially among technology firms. Food companies like Starbucks and Whole Foods offer stock grants.

Corey Rosen, of the National Center for Employee Ownership, says employee ownership takes many different forms, and in a growing number of companies, workers own the firms outright.

Dairy company Schreiber Foods, for example, is larger than Chobani and is 100 percent employee owned through an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP.

Rosen says such plans allow employees to own, control and share in the profits of a company through a trust. Their popularity is increasing, he says, in part because they enjoy large tax benefits and because retiring baby boomers who own companies see it as a good way to transfer ownership. He estimates nearly one-tenth of American workers are part of an ESOP.

“This has kind of been an under-the-radar change in the American economy that’s really very significant,” Rosen says.

As of August 2015, these were the top 10 largest majority employee-owned companies in the U.S. Click here to see a list of the top 100.

1. Publix Super Markets (supermarkets; based in Lakeland, Fla.): 175,000 employees.

2. CH2M Hill (engineering & construction; based in Englewood, Colo.): 26,000 employees.

3. Lifetouch* (photography; Eden Prarie, Minn.): 25,000 employees.

4. Price Chopper (supermarkets; based in Schenectady, N.Y.): 22,000 employees.

5. Houchens Industries* (supermarkets & other services; based in Bowling Green, Ky.): 18,000 employees.

6. Penmac* (staffing; based in Springfield, Mo.): 17,000 employees.

7. Amsted Industries* (industrial components; based in Chicago, Ill.): 16,800 employees.

8. Parsons* (engineering & construction; based in Pasadena, Calif.): 15,000 employees.

8. WinCo Foods (supermarkets; based in Boise, Idaho): 15,000 employees.

10. Alliance Holdings* (holding company; based in Abington, Pa.): 14,670 employees.

Note: Companies marked with an asterisk are 100 percent employee-owned.

Source: National Center for Employee Ownership

He says when employee ownership is distributed throughout the rank and file, whether through an ESOP or a stock grant program, it has powerful impact on worker culture. Rosen claims company performance improves after they start employee ownership programs, and workers build wealth much, much faster.

“We hear all this discussion these days about economic inequality, and the wage system is really not going to solve that problem very well,” Rosen says. “Even if you raise the minimum wage, it’s only going to affect a small minority of the workforce.”

Michael Gonda, a Chobani spokesman and longtime employee, says granting everyone a piece of Chobani was important to Ulukaya.

“One of the hardest things to do for a program like this, is when you have 2,000 employees that you want to participate in it, is figuring out that allocation,” Gonda says. “Obviously, time and role at the company have a huge part to play, but this is a very personal part of the process for Hamdi, and he spent a lot of time going through that.”

The company didn’t disclose details about the allocations, but the longest-serving employees received the largest shares.

Gonda says there was a lot of hugging and crying at the announcement ceremony.

“There’s a very emotional bond and an emotional connection that you don’t typically associate with a manufacturing facility, or a yogurt plant,” he says.

And now that bond includes a joint financial stake in the future performance of the company.

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